“Blessed are those who do His commandments.” Revelation 22:12
Last weekend, Rob Hoskins from One Hope and co-creator of You Version spoke at my church to highlight the importance of supporting and/or participating in mission work. His main focus was on One Hope’s goal to reach children with the Gospel all over the world, which I fully support. The church (us) ought to be involved in mission work in some way.
But let’s be honest. It’s not easy for some people to go on a mission trip. The cost can be quite high, and the fundraising can get rather tedious and time-consuming. I remember when my husband went to Haiti a few years ago. I can’t begin to count how many cars he cleaned during many Saturday afternoons just to raise only half of what he needed.
For those of us who can’t afford the cost or time to go overseas, how can we still support mission work? Yes, we can make donations, but how else can we get involved and become a part of spreading the Good News?
Enter Through the Gates
Rob Hoskins began his sermon by reading from Revelation 22:12-15.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
This Scripture is one of the last in the entire Bible. Here, Jesus is talking to the seven churches of Asia Minor—the original recipients of God’s word—and reminding them to get ready because He is returning very soon.
He warns them (and us) that His reward of eternal life is given only to those whose works survive God’s testing by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10). He also reminds them that if they keep His commandments, they will be allowed to enter the “gates into the city,” which refers to the forthcoming new Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, not everyone will enter the city.
Dogs are Not Invited
There are still those who choose not to follow God. They willfully and selfishly choose to continue their sinful lifestyle and ignore the consequences.
The Bible refers to these people as dogs, and dogs were not as loved back then as they are today. They were often hated and considered to be filthy, despicable creatures according to cultural norms of that time (1 Samuel 17:43; Proverbs 26:17).
So, when Jesus symbolically calls the people outside the gates “dogs,” He’s referring to people of low moral character, which was common symbolism (Deuteronomy 23:18; 2 Samuel 3:8; Proverbs 26:11; 2 Samuel 9:8). He also calls out the homosexual prostitutes (Deuteronomy 23:18) and both false and unfaithful leaders (Isaiah 56:10). These people and many others will be left outside the gates of heaven and not have the right to the tree of life.
In his sermon, Rob Hoskins talked about how some children will be left outside the gates simply because they never heard the Gospel story of Jesus. But they’re not alone. There are others with that same problem.
I live on a great street in a quiet neighborhood. It’s the kind of street where everyone pretty much knows each other.
Our neighbors on one side of us are fantastic people. Need a cup of sugar? No problem. Need to borrow a power tool for a week or plug into their generator after a hurricane took out our electricity? Also, no problem. They gave birthday gifts to my kids and brought warm chocolate chip cookies to our door every Christmas for years.
They sound like amazing people, don’t they? They are! But there’s a problem—they refuse to know God.
Countless times, we invited them to church with us for either Christmas or Easter thinking that would be a good way to get their feet wet. But every time they would politely tell us they had other things to do like wash the car or go grocery shopping. No matter how much we tried to entice them, they chose to ignore God with the “I’m good” attitude.
It hurts my heart knowing they will be left outside the gates.
Maybe my neighbors remind you of someone you know. Maybe you know some great people, the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their back any time day or night. But they don’t know God and want no part of Him.
And how about those who delight in being grumpy, rude, and mean? Or selfish, self-centered, or narcissistic people?
These are a few of the types of people Jesus is talking about in Revelation 22. It’s not just the murderers and sexually immoral. It’s also anyone who willfully disobeys God or completely chooses to ignore Him. They will be left outside the gates where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).
Others Left Outside the Gates
I also think of those people who knock on my door every spring to hand me a tract and try to tell me who they think God is. They think they’re doing things right, but sadly they have been taught a skewed version of the Bible and have become false teachers.
How about those who go to church faithfully every week, maybe even several times a week, but never really gave their hearts to Christ? They do all the right things, but they have no relationship with the Lord.
These are the ones who will stand before the throne of God fully thinking they did everything right, but this is what Jesus says about them.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
I can’t imagine making it all the way to the throne room of God only to be told, “I never knew you; depart from Me.” Could you?
Our Problem with Making Disciples
It’s clear we as believers need to reach out to those outside the gates and invite them in. The opportunities are surely there, the field is ripe for the harvest, but we don’t take hold of them. We’re too busy, we don’t know what to say, or we don’t have enough money or talent. We shy away from the chance to share the Gospel, but it’s not shyness that’s the problem.
One of the last things Jesus told His disciples was to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). When we shrink away from that commandment, we are in disobedience to God.
God is looking for people who are willing to be step up in righteousness to reach those who are stuck outside the gates. Because whether they know it or not, they are thirsty and hungry for the truth. And many of them you know already.
Every day we see them seeking and searching, but they keep missing the One who can truly satisfy them. They engage in behavior we know is keeping them outside the gates not knowing Jesus is the only one who can offer true Living Water.
So, what can we do to reach the people around us who so desperately need God but refuse to acknowledge Him in any way? Here are five powerful ways to share God’s love and your faith without turning them off.
Demonstrate Your Fruits of the Spirit
Almost daily, Christians are judged by non-believers to see if we’re the real deal. Non-believers are all too ready to point out when we mess up and call us hypocrites. This is why it’s so important to demonstrate the purity of our hearts through the fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22)
Expressing the fruits of the Spirit in our daily walk is a great way to introduce the character of God to those who are outside the gates. Sometimes it takes some extra effort, but God promises that our work will bear fruit if we remain vigilant (John 15:1-27).
I remember a few years ago reading about a woman who set up a picnic table in her front yard and painted it turquoise. Every day, she would sit out there with a book and a cup of coffee (sometimes food too) and wait for her neighbors to walk by. Over time, they got to know her and pretty soon they sat down to chat. Eventually, they would share their problems with her, which gave her the opportunity to share what the Bible says.
I also read about another woman who would take in anyone who needed a place to stay whether she knew them or not. God had moved her heart to feed and shelter people in need. And every day she would pray with them and share the Bible with them.
You don’t have to go to these extremes to show hospitality. It can be as simple as…
- Taking a plate of cookies to a new neighbor and introducing yourself to let them know they can call on you if they need anything
- Helping the elderly carry their groceries to their car
- Inviting your child’s friend to stay for dinner
- Stopping what you’re doing to give someone your full attention when they want to share a story or need a loving shoulder to lean on.
God provides plenty of moments each day where we can show godly hospitality if we take the time to notice them and act on them.
Sprinkle God into Your Conversations
This idea can be a tough one for some people, especially if you tend to be bashful. But I’ve found by dropping God’s name into a conversation can be an excellent way to share your faith.
No preaching is required, just a willingness to say God’s name. For instance, someone encouraged me recently when I talked about how much work I have to do. My non-believing friend replied she was sure I would get it all done. And I said to her, “Well, God is good so you’re probably right.” My words caught her by surprise, but then she said she agreed.
Another great way to sprinkle God into your words is by wishing someone a blessed day either when you’re speaking or when you sign off an email. You’d be surprised how many people respond positively to that.
If you’re truly bold, then you might share how you know God loves us, and He’s got a plan for the circumstances we go through. Showing how much you trust God clearly displays your faith and offers hope to others.
Ask Them to Church
Just like I did with my neighbors, create an open invitation for people to go to church with you. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t developed a relationship with Jesus without someone asking them to go to church with them (besides my kids who had no options). Maybe this is how you came to know Jesus too.
Asking someone to church can be a scary thing, I know. You can’t be sure how they will react or if they will recoil so much they steer clear of you for a while. But here’s the thing you have to remember: it’s not about you.
We are all called to make disciples of others, and there is no better way than simply asking someone to go to church with you. Unfortunately, it can backfire. But ask yourself…isn’t it better to have risked a relationship than to have not asked them at all knowing where they will spend eternity without Christ in their hearts? And think of this: What if they had said yes but you were too scared to ask?
As difficult as it can be, it’s important that we present the opportunity for someone to experience Christ. God only asks that we invite them. He promises He’ll do the rest. And if they say no, then you have peace knowing you at least asked.
In the meantime, you can…
I cannot stress enough the importance of praying for the lost. It truly would be heartbreaking to know someone was left outside the gates, someone missed salvation, because of something we failed to do.
Prayer is the number one way to reach others for Christ. I’ve heard so many stories of people who accepted God’s gift of grace and later found out their grandmother had been on her knees daily praying for them decades ago.
We know God hears us when we pray. When we call out someone’s name to Jesus, He hears us and intercedes for us before the Father (Romans 8:34). Jesus so desperately wants to save all of us. We can help by praying and shining a spotlight on someone we care about.
Like Jesus, none of us wants us to see anyone left outside the gates. Not when we can do something about it.
What can you do today? How can you share God’s love? How can you be “about my Father’s business (Luke 2:49)?”
Don’t let shyness or feelings of inadequacy or outright disobedience keep you from doing what the Lord has commanded us all to do. Instead, I pray you are willing to respond the way Isaiah did in Isaiah 6:8.
“Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
One Hope’s mission is to reach school children across the world with the gospel of Jesus. Each child is given a booklet that retells the account of Jesus in a story-like narrative as given to us in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So far, they have reached 120 nations in 148 different languages with a goal to reach 113 million kids this year. If you would like to support this wonderful ministry, you may do so here (not an affiliate link). They are a great organization that’s highly ranked for accountability according to charity watchdog sites.